In this article I will write about one of the most influential bands of the last thirty years. This band was formed after a tragedy, and went on to change their sound several times. They were innovators, not followers, always ahead of the trend, pushing musical boundaries, and embraced the use of technology within their music. In the process, they  and have influenced a generation of new bands and musicians. The band I am describing is New Order, and the album is their second album Power, Corruption and Lies which was released in 1983.

New Order were formed in 1980, from the remnants of Joy Division, after the tragic death of Joy Division’s lead sing Ian Curtis. Shortly after Curtis’ death, the remaining members of the Joy, Division Peter Hook, Stephen Morris and Bernard Sumner, decided to carry on making music. They felt that it would be wrong to use the Joy Division name, so changed their name to New Order. Without a vocalist, and missing a member of the group, they had two problems to overcome. All three members of the group took turns singing lead vocal, and it was decided Bernard Sumner would be the new lead singer. Their reason for this was simple, they felt the guitar was the easiest instrument to play whilst singing. That was one problem solved. The other problem would soon be solved. The group felt that they wanted someone to join the group that they knew, and whose musical style and skill was comparable with theirs. So Gillian Gilbert, Stephen Morris’ girlfriend was invited to join the group on keyboards and guitar. Gilbert had previously played with Joy Division occasionally filling in on keyboards or guitar. Now that the line up was complete, New Order could start making music.

New Order’s first single was Ceremony. It had been written before Curtis’ death. The new group’s sound was similar to that of Joy Division. Although the songs were melodic, there was a darkness to their sound. One difference however, was the use of synthesizers in the new group’s music. Their first album Movement, was released in November 1981. The album would reach number thirty in the UK album charts. Later, New Order would say that this was a low point in their career, but the good thing about it was that Movement’s producer, Martin “Zero” Hannet showed the band how to use a mixing desk in a recording studio. This showed them how to produce their own music, which they would later to do great effect.

A trip to New York in 1981, changed New Order’s musical direction forever. On the trip, the were introduced to new styles of music. They heard electro, post-disco and Latin Freestyle music. At the same time, the group started listening to Italian disco music, and Stephen Morris taught himself how to program drums. All of this, would have a Damascan change on their music. This was apparent when New Order would release their next two singles. Temptation and Everything’s Gone Green, was not the dark brooding sound of Ceremony, quite the opposite. The new singles were heavily influence by the music that they had been exposed to in New York.

Their second album, Power, Corruption and Lies, which this article is about, was released in March 1983. This new album saw a huge change in style. On the album, this was the first time New Order had used technology. The sound was synthesizer based and was a fusion of techno music, with traditional guitar based music. Listen carefully, and you will hear a sound influenced by electronic music pioneers Kraftwerk and disco and hi-nrg pioneer Giorgio Moroder. The album reached number four in the UK album chart. Confusion was one of the singles released from the album. This was the single that brought the group to the attention of dance music fans, and established their reputation as dance music pioneers.

The change in the New Order’s sound became even more apparent, when they released the seminal track, Blue Monday. Blue Monday has a 4/4 beat, a drum beat that is sequenced. This track was innovative and highly influential. From the introduction with its semi-quaver kick drum to the use of the Oberheim DMX drum machine; and from the slightly out of synch sequencer melody, to the pulsating Moog Source synth bass, this is a great track. Bernard Sumner later said that Blue Monday had been hugely influenced by tracks like Sylvester’s disco classic You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real), and Dirty Talk by Klein and MBO. Blue Monday reached number seven in the UK singles chart, and went on to become the best selling twelve inch single of all time.

New Order released their third album Low-Life in May 1985. This album saw New Order fully cross over from traditional guitar based rock music, to pioneers of the quickly burgeoning dance music scene. Low-Life saw the group use both synthesizers and samplers on this album. Before the albums release, one of the tracks on Low-Life was released as a single. The track was Perfect Kiss, and this was the first time that New Order would release a single that was also on an album.   Low-Life was another success for New Order and would reach number in the UK album charts.

The following year, in September1986, New Order released the follow up to Lowlife. This was the album Brotherhood. Brotherhood had one side of New Order’s more traditional guitar bases songs, and the other featured their new electronic music. The album includes the song that broke New Order in the US, Bizarre Love Triangle. Like their two previous albums, Brotherhood brought the group commercial success, reaching number nine in UK album charts. However, the album only reached number 161 in the US Billboard 200.

1987 saw New Order release a compilation album Substance. Substance contained the group’s new single True Faith. It also contained all of their twelve inch singles, and new versions of Temptation and Confusion entitled Temptation ’87 and Confusion ’87. This release was double album, and the second disc contained a new song 1963, as well as the groups b-sides. The album reached number three in the UK album charts. It also gave New Order their first hit album in the US, reaching number thirty-six in the US Billboard 200.

Their next studio album was Technique. At this time in their career, New Order were being heavily influenced by both the balearic house music and acid house. This led New Order to head to Ibiza to record their new album. Released in February 1989, the album entered the UK album charts at number one. Technique contains tracks influenced by acid house music, but also their more traditional guitar, drum and bass sound. About this time, Bernard Sumner joined Johnny Marr, formerly of The Smiths, to start a new band called Electronic. Peter Hook decided to do likewise, starting a new group called revenge. Both Sumner and Hook left the group, but still made music in a New Order style. Another problem for the group at the demise of Factory Records in 1992. This left the band without a record label, until they later signed for London Records.

New Order did not record another album until 1993. Republic was released in May 1993. It was the groups debut album for their new label, London Records. Like its predecessor, Technique, the album entered the UK album charts at number one, and in the US reached number eleven the US Billboard 200. Four singles were released from the album. Regret, Ruined In A Day, World and Spooky. This was a huge change from when New Order would not release an album track as a single. After the band had toured the album, the band was put on hold, allowing its members to continue with their side projects. Peter Hook would form Monaco, Gilbert and Morris formed the Other Two, Sumner rejoined Electronic, and collaborated with The Chemical Brothers. New Order would not be seen again until 1998, when they would play again live as a group.

New Order’s next album was released in August 2001. Get Ready was the group’s seventh studio album. On this album, the sound was much more guitar orientated. Bernard Sumner felt that they had almost neglected the instrument, having left it alone for a while. The album was still commercially successful, but only reached number six in the UK album charts and number forty-one in the US Billboard 200.

In March 2005, New Order released their final studio album, Waiting For the Siren’s Call. This was the first album New Order had released since Gillian Gilbert left the band to look after her children. She was replaced by Phil Cunningham. Although hired to play guitar, he also cowrote one of the album’s songs. This was the first, and only, of New Order’s albums to have a title track. The album gave New Order a number five album in the UK album charts and reached number forty-six in the US Billboard 200.

In 2006 the group played a number of concerts, and rumors spread that the group were about to split up. This was denied by Hook after a show in Buenos Aires, and by Morris in January 2007. However, in May 2007 Peter Hook was interviewed on a UK radio station and admitted that he and Bernard Sumner were no longer working together. A statement in July 2007 by Morris and Sumner stated that New Order would continue without Hook. Statements were made by various members throughout the next two years about New Order’s future. The future became clearer when Sumner stated that no further New Order albums would be made. This seems to be end of one of British music’s greatest groups. However, who knows, maybe they will return?

Now that you are familiar with the history of New Order, I will tell you why Power, Corruption and Lies is such a special album. The opening track on the album is Age of Consent. Age of Consent begins with bass, drums and guitar and Hook sing the vocal. On this track, the sound is the more traditional New Order sound, until the synthesizers enter the mix after one minute forty-five seconds. This has the effect of totally transforming the sound. Out is the traditional guitar, drums and bass sound, in is something altogether more dynamic, and innovative. However, the “traditional instruments” are used to good effect as well. There is some delicious bass playing on this track. Age of Consent is a rousing track, one that starts the album well.

Peter Hook plays a slow and tight bass line at the start of We All Stand. He is then joined by some of the new technology on the track. Synthesizers and drum machine produce an atmospheric, futuristic sound. Sumner’s vocal adds to the effect. It is surrounded by layers of sounds, which together, produce a moody twenty-first century soundscape. The track is a marriage of their traditional sound, and the now technology they embraced on this album. Overall, this is a good track. Although by no means, a slice of sunshine, this moody and atmospheric track is one that shows the new direction New Order were heading. 

The Village is the next track, and it really sees New Order master the new technology available to them. New Order really embrace the technology to great effect, and produce one of the albums best tracks. Everything about the track is much better. This track has a brighter feel and sound to it. Here, Peter Hook’s bass lines and the synthesizers come together well. Sumner sings the vocal well, and the lyrics are much more positive. The band all produce a standout performance, playing as one, giving their all, to produce four and a half minutes of joyous and glorious innovative music.

586 when you listen to it, sounds like the seminal Blue Monday’s little brother. It starts slowly, with sequencers, meandering, seemingly nowhere in particular. After just under two minutes the track opens out and develops. It then grabs your attention. Why? Quite simple really. 586 then features Blue Mondayesque drum beats, and the similarities are striking and astounding. One difference between the two tracks is that Sumner sings a vocal on 586. Blue Monday, that classic track, as we all know, is an instrumental. I love 586, from the sound of the sequencers, to the perfectly programmed drum sound, to Bernard Sumner’s anguished sounding vocals, it is a classic New Order track.

Your Silent Face is the next track on the album. Quite, simply this is a sonic masterpiece. The track is absolute perfection. Everything about the track comes together beautifully. Hooky’s bass playing and the sequencers is a marriage made in heaven, they feed of each other, the interchange, and almost, cooperation between them, is extraordinary. Sumner’s vocal is just the icing on the cake, sparse, yet effective. 

Ultraviolence is another uptempo track. The start sees an amalgamation of drum machine and synthesizers. Later in the track, the bass enters the fray and competes for the listener’s attention. The track sees the continual repetition of sounds, which is effective. This track is rhythmic and pulsating, yet full of tension, and sometimes, darkness. However, the fusion of instruments, technology and vocal works beautifully, and what the band have produced is a track that lead the way, showed that New Order were leaders not followers.

Ecstacy relies heavily upon the new technology New Order embraced and welcomed on this album. The track has been heavily influenced by Kraftwerk. Nowhere is this more apparent that when you hear the vocoder sound, that drifts into, and out of the song. This is something Kraftwerk used in their classic 1970s albums, Autobahn, The Man-Machine, Radio Activity and Trans-Europe Express. New Order use this effectively, the vocoder is not over used. It merges beautifully with the other sounds on the track, and produces a wonderful instrumental. The longer Power, Corruption and Lies goes on, the tracks just get better and better. 

The final track on Power, Corruption and Lies is Leave Me Alone. When you hear the opening bars to the song, you realize that this song is going to be worth hearing. It does not disappoint. Sumner and the rest of the band, return to their more traditional sound to close the album. He sings the vocal well, and the band have kept an ace up their sleeve with this track. It is a bigger, fuller sound, one that New Order would return to later in their career. Leave Me Alone is a nice contrast from the other songs on album, and is a great way to end their second, and groundbreaking album.

During the last few days, I have spent some time listening to New Order’s music, and if they had not produced Power, Corruption and Lies, their history would have been very different. This album sees a group evolving, their sound changing, and I would even say, improving. This album is very different to their debut album, Movement, and hugely different to the Joy Division sound. New Order were brave, changing their sound, this was a huge risk to take. They could have lost their existing fan-base. That thankfully did not happen. Quite the opposite. They widened their appeal, and became one of the most important British groups of the past thirty years. New Order were pioneers, innovators who changed the landscape of music, and changed it for the better. 

Power, Corruption and Lies is an important album, in musical history, and is one that deserves a place in any record collection. It is an album that joins the dots between German electronic music, techo, disco and rock music. One must ask whether, without Power, Corruption and Lies, later albums like Primal Scream’s Screamdelica, would have been made. If you have not heard this album, or any of New Order’s music, this is a good introduction to their music. I would recommend to accompany it, Technique and their compilation album Substance, which contains some of their best work. Should you buy Power, Corruption and Lies and any of other albums I have recommended, you will not be disappointed, you will hear some wonderful innovative music from one of Britain’s best groups at their peak. Standout Tracks: The Village, 586, Your Silent Face and Leave Me Alone.


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